GENERAL

Zondo lays down law for his term as Chief Justice

Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo sat down for a media briefing on Thursday, 24 March. He will officially assume the position in the coming weeks and hopes to wrap his work on the State Capture Commission by the end of April.

ZONDO STRESSES HIS INDEPENDENCE

In the media briefing, held in Midrand, Gauteng, Zondo spoke at length about his independence and said he hopes to leave behind a judiciary that is “truly independent” when his truncated term as Chief Justice comes to an end in two years’ time.

When questioned about his personal independence and his relationship with President Cyril Ramaphosa he recounted several examples – dating as far back as 1999 when he was the Acting Judge President of the Labour Court – that were meant to illustrate his judicial independence.

In the listed examples Zondo explained how he disagreed with the judgements made by more senior judgements. He was questioned about whether he would be as independent when faced with political pressure and he said he would be.

‘I FELT HONOURED’

Although he was not the JSC’s preferred candidate for the position, Zondo said he has no doubt that all the members, including Julius Malema, would work well with him following his appointment by Ramaphosa.

He said Ramaphosa himself informed him of the appointment. The Acting Chief Justice said he was struck by the heaviness of the appointment nevertheless he was happy to hear the news.

“I felt honoured. To be appointed as CJ is a special honour. It gives one an opportunity to serve the people in a special way,” said Zondo, describing his reaction on the day he heard the news.

The JSC’s preferred candidate, Judge Mandisa Maya, is expected to be appointed Deputy Chief Justice.

Zondo was reticent to talk about what he would entrust her with but said she would play a very important role in the leadership of the judiciary.

“I have absolute confidence that she will make a great contribution,” he said.

ZONDO SLAMS ALLEGATIONS THAT JUDICIARY IS CAPTURED

Zondo also addressed allegations that the judiciary is captured. He said such allegations should not be made lightly.

“It is not in the interest of anyone who loves this country to portray the judiciary as captured. If anybody has evidence they should come forward and present it,” he said.

He referred to how the former Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng spoke publicly and asked members of the public to come forward with evidence to support such allegations but to this day no such proof has surfaced.

READ: Mogoeng Mogoeng: “Tell us which judge has been captured and corrupted”

“If anybody makes allegations, there is a body [the Judicial Conduct Committee] that looks into complaints and allegations against judges. Why are people not taking their complaints to that body?” asked Zondo.

Zondo said he and the former Chief Justice speak “almost every day” and added that as Mogoeng once said it appears that there are those who would like to capture the judiciary.

“From time to time, one does see certain actions that really appear to be attempts to capture the judiciary. As far as I know, the former CJ has never said those attempts have succeeded.

“As far as I know, those attempts have not succeeded and I will do all that I can to make sure that those attempts do not succeed,” said Zondo.

CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY IN THE FIRING LINE?

Zondo also disagreed with the notion that the judiciary makes anti-transformation decisions.

“People need to not look at a number of judgements. I am satisfied that most people who bother to read the judgements of the courts will know that the judiciary is making a contribution to transformation,” he said.

Zondo was asked a question related to comments made by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala.

On Human Rights Day the Premier said “We want to issue the call for us to debate whether it is not time to move away from absolute rule by the Constitutional Court to a situation where we have a parliamentary democracy in which the voice of the people who elected is supreme to all other voices.”

Zondo hit back and said that all the power the judiciary has is the power given to it by the Constitution, which was passed by parliament and furthered that he does not think the judiciary performs any functions that it should not in a Constitutional democracy.

“We are not in these positions to be popular,” said Zondo. “We are in these positions to deliver justice.”

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